I realize in this little spot we have lots of conversations. We talk about fun girl stuff like fashion and events. We mommas get together to share our experiences, good and bad. Career women meet up to exchange leadership knowledge. And those of us who believe in a Heavenly Father share stories of faith.
This week is a little less diverse in topics than usual. Maybe those of you who don’t share my faith will find general inspiration for life. But I find in this week, this particular season, where those of us who believe in a baby Jesus have our eyes turned to His birth, I am seeing so much new in the scripture I read and I’m penning it here as much for my own learning as for those of us who share the same faith.
Next week will bring the general diversity of topics, but today and tomorrow I’m going to share a few lessons I’m learning from the Christmas story in living your life calling. Today’s reading from Luke 1 is longer than usual, but the entire context is important. Here are verses 26 through 45:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
- God’s favor doesn’t mean life is going to be easy. In fact, it could mean it’s about to get really hard. Mary found favor (v.28). Such favor it heralded an angelic appearance and a Savior birth! But what did that mean for Mary? For all she knew, her betrothed might leave her. Her family would shun her. Not to mention, even once she knew her man would stick by her side, she has to watch her son leave, wander, and ultimately be rejected, tormented and die a brutal death. Which leads to…
- God doesn’t always let us in on how hard the path is going to get – because He needs us to bravely step forward. I don’t know if we would agree at the beginning to some of the journeys we are called to take if we knew the obstacles we would face en route. God shares the greater purpose, His ultimate vision (v.32, the Lord God will give Him the throne…), to keep us moving forward.
- Our initial response to a new calling will likely be worry. Troubled (v. 29). Terror even. This story shows young Mary, about to marry a great guy, when here comes an angel (which was far outside the norm after hundreds of years of God’s silence) with a big message of change. Why on earth would God be messin’ with her life when it’s about to really take off? So when we hear God encouraging us to do something new, we may panic.
- BUT we are told not to be afraid. Fear is the human response. God gets how His call on our life can sometimes totally freak us out. We’re allowed to be greatly troubled, but then we need to turn the terror off. How? Speak Jesus over it – do not be afraid, you will have a son and you are to call him Jesus (v.30).
- God wants to do something big if we will let Him – in us and in those around us. Here, we see God saying, not only am I going to show my power and use you (Mary) in a way never before done – I’m going to be doing some crazy things in others lives too so more people participate in the miracle. Here, not only does He overshadow Mary to have her carry God’s son, but He also comes to Elizabeth who is WAY past her childbearing years to create a miracle (v.36), the forerunner for Jesus (John). You see “NOTHING is impossible with God.” (v.37) We crave the possible because we can control it. But He wants to do something RADICAL so only God will get the glory.
- You must accept the assignment. Don’t miss this. In verse 38, Mary says “okay.” I don’t know what He would have done had she said, “no thanks, I’m planning a wedding and registering for my new house and I really don’t want to upend all that,” but I believe He would have found someone else. We each have free will. We have to accept the calling we receive.
- There’s no competition or jealousy in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Why did I include verses 39-45? Because there’s enough good to camp out in 26-38. But I would hate for us, especially us women, to miss this cool part that follows. In the presence of God, when God indwells us, there is only supernatural power and joy. If you read earlier in Luke 1, you’ll see that Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) was married to Zechariah, a righteous priest from the lineage of Aaron. Elizabeth had long wanted a child but couldn’t get pregnant. The years passed and she had long since given up hope one would come. In fact, when an angel tells Zechariah, he doesn’t believe it because they are so old. So when young unmarried Mary comes to visit carrying God’s son and here is the righteous longsuffering Elizabeth carrying the forerunner, the human condition could have made her jealous. She could have been indigent or bitter. “Why does this little upstart get the baby Jesus when I waited in service to God all these long decades?” But no, we don’t see that. Instead, she asks why she is so FAVORED that Mary would even come to visit her. When our focus is on the presence of God in our lives and what He wants to achieve, all of the trivial things which can throw us off course disappear. Even though Elizabeth will have her own hard journey (her son gets beheaded), she recognizes too Mary accepted the assignment which will result in a revolution for an entire faith. (v.45 – Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!)